Focus on the top 15 – 30 donors who haven’t made a gift yet this year. Get your Executive Director, Board Chair and senior development staff out to meet with these key donors personally. Find out what’s going on in their lives, and what’s still important to them about the work you’re doing. Then ask them to make a year-end commitment to ensure that important work can continue
Identify your top 150 donors (after those above) and visit them. Share with them what you expect next year to bring for your organization and the clients you serve, and the wonderful opportunities they have to make an impact. Then ask them to make a year-end commitment. One of our clients that did this last year added $1 million to their bottom line in just the final quarter of 2010!
Deploy a matching challenge. There are few things donors love more than leverage. Especially middle and major donors. Take the next 30 days to secure a meaningful matching gift from a donor or group of donors, and then promote the matching challenge in every available marketing channel. Some organizations have seen results increase by 30% – 50% with the use of a year-end matching challenge.
Find a way to fit an extra direct mail appeal into your year-end fundraising calendar. For many of our clients we mail mid-month appeals throughout the 4th Quarter. These extra appeals will increase your income and keep even more donors active going into next year.
Call your donors. In fact, compile a list of all of your middle donors and any major donors you aren’t able to visit with personally, and start calling them in October. Work this list all the way through December 31 if you have to. Make sure everyone on the list is reached in person over the phone, and asked to make a year-end gift. Time these calls to follow your direct mail in-home dates throughout the 4th Quarter and you’ll see even stronger results!
Make clean-up calls during the final week of the year. This might seem counter intuitive, but this is the time of year when every other company (and many nonprofits) shut down. No one else is making calls this week of the year. If you call during this week, you’ll have a much better chance of getting through.
Invest in acquisition! This is absolutely the best time of year to acquire new donors. You’ll get more new donors at a lower cost per donor in the 4th Quarter than any other time of year. And this investment will pay dividends for years to come.
Be intentional about integration. Coordinate the messaging and timing of your direct mail, e-mail campaigns, and online display/drive to site efforts, telemarketing and face-to-face efforts. Consistency in message and coordinated timing of your appeals will deliver increased results.
Engage your board. Ask board members to make thank you calls to middle, major (including corporations and foundations) and planned gift donors who have already made a contribution this year. Often, a timely and meaningful thank you from volunteer leaders can result in an extra year-end gift from these donors.
Invest in Search Engine Marketing (SEM). SEM campaigns will help you reach high-value online donors that are looking for worthy causes to support during the holiday season. These donors are younger and tend to give significantly higher average gifts than direct mail acquired donors. And because of that, you’ll frequently be able to acquire donors at a breakeven or better with SEM campaigns.
Develop a special Year-End e-mail series. Send a series of three e-mail solicitations throughout the month of December, each building on the momentum and urgency of the last. Time the final e-mail to be delivered on the morning of December 31st, with a subject line of something like, “Last Chance to Give in 2011”.
Don’t forget your volunteers, GIK donors and event attendees. These supporters might not make cash contributions throughout the rest of the year, but the holiday season is a special time. People who support you in other ways throughout the year can be inspired to go the extra mile and make a cash gift at year-end. If you ask. At the very least, include these supporters in your year-end direct mail, e-mail and telephone solicitation efforts.
Include a special year-end cover letter in your 4th Quarter newsletter. Use this opportunity to celebrate your donors’ faithful giving throughout the year and ask for the special extra gift at year-end. Personalize the letter and reply device to make it extra special (and to increase response).
Create a special ask for monthly donors. These highly committed donors will give generously to an extra year-end appeal if done right. Don’t just lump them into your standard year-end appeal though. Make sure you have custom letter and e-mail versions (or telemarketing scripts) for these donors that speak to the incredible impact their monthly gifts make. And offer them an opportunity to do something extra special in the final months of the year.
Remind donors about corporate matching gift programs. Include inserts in your direct mail and newsletters, put a special paragraph in your e-mail appeals, and remind donors by phone and in person that their gifts can do even more if matched by their employer.
Don’t neglect stewardship. Gift transaction volumes will be much higher in the final three months of the year than any other time. Make sure your staff and volunteers are trained and equipped to handle the increase in contributions, receipts, phone calls and online inquiries. Make sure that everyone involved in the gift processing and stewardship process (including the finance department) knows how critical accurate and timely gift processing is to donor retention.
Prepare to capitalize on your acquisition efforts. If you don’t already have one, start now on a new donor welcome series that includes a special new donor thank you receipt, welcome package and other materials that can be sent to first time donors. The minimal investment of time and resources you’ll need to do this will pay huge dividends in 2nd gift conversion and future income for your organization.
Stay open through the holidays. Have at least a few gift officers in the office that can be making clean-up calls to donors that haven’t given yet this year and thank you calls to donors who make large year-end contributions. They’ll also be available for those last minute calls from donors who want to make gifts of stocks or other assets before year-end.